Redistricting creates interesting field in VA-22
Rarely is the off-year election for the Virginia General Assembly very interesting. For the most part, the bulk of seats in the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate are held by long-term incumbents who are very difficult to beat because the districts are drawn to benefit one party or another.
Aside from the fact that the races are seldom competitive, there is generally not much interest anyway. Outside die-hard political junkies (which most readers of this blog must be) the average Virginian doesn’t seem to care very much about legislative races. It is very difficult to convince my News Director that a random legislative race merits a television news story. In fact I often wonder how many people even know who represents them in the G.A.
But 2011 could be different. In part, because new legislative lines have created open seats that have forced sitting legislators to re-think their decision to run for re-election and have compelled young and emerging politicians to take a leap at a tough race that could turn into a long-term gig at the State Capitol.
Perfect case in point, the quickly crowded field in the new Virginia Senate District 22. The sprawling district includes parts of nine different municipalities, including all or parts of Buckingham, Goochland, Louisa, Fluvanna and Appomattox Counties and The City of Lynchburg. Republican Ralph Smith represents the current 22nd Senate District, but was drawn out of this new district.
That opens the door to a whole host of potentially interesting candidates, several of which have formally jumped in and others that are mulling a run. The seat is decidedly Republican, so at this point they are all members of the GOP. This once a decade opportunity has many of them willing to venture into what could be a difficult primary for the shot at grabbing a seat that they could theoretically hold as long as they want.
Here is a list of candidates:
Tom Garrett (Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney)- The most well-known of the bunch, a rising republican star, tight with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (he describes himself as a ‘Cuccinelli Conservative” and Governor Bob McDonnell. Garrett has found a way to get a great deal of media coverage despite being the C.A. in a predominately rural county. He has benefited from a few high-profile cases and an aggressive approach to reigning in pedophiles trolling for children on the internet.
Bryan Rhode (Richmond Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney)- Rhode is an impressive figure with a quality resume. Marine, prosecutor, UVA Law Grad and active republican. Rhode will have a big mountain to climb in terms of name recognition. He is a prosecutor in Richmond, but the vast majority of the district pays little attention to crime in the State Capital. He claims to have already raised $50,000 and picked up several endorsements.
Brian D. Bates (Supervisor, Buckingham County Board of Supervisors)- Bates has served on the Buckingham County Board since 2000. Bates touts his success in helping to bring economic development to Buckingham. Dominion Virginia Power announced plans to build a plant in the county. The Longwood University Professor believes his location in the geographic center of the district will benefit him in his run.
Shaun Kenney (Vice Chairman, Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors)- Kenney, a former RPV staffer and current Fluvanna County Board member is active in the Conservative blogosphere. He isn’t officially in the race, but a facebook group has emerged hoping to “draft” him into the race. His brother Jason, another active conservative blogger, is among those hoping to “convince” Shaun to run.
And that is just the names out there in public. More could emerge as we get closer to election day. Each one has the potential to be a pretty powerful force in the race and if most of them stay, the race could get expensive and ugly. For instance, if television advertising becomes even part of the discussion (which is difficult in legislative races) It will require purchasing time in three different TV markets.
It is the kind of race that would never occur in a non-redistricting year and just one example of many that have emerged in the wake of the district lines finally being resolved.
What other races do you think will be compelling? Let me know and we will profile those as well. Weigh in on my facebook page or in the comments below.